Schizophrenia is a mental illness. It causes people to lose touch with reality and sometimes makes it difficult for them to think and speak in an organized way. It isn’t known exactly what causes schizophrenia, but it’s likely a combination of several factors, such as the way your body works, your family history, your environment, and your life experiences.
What can I do about it?
Schizophrenia is treatable. While there is no cure, you can learn how to effectively manage schizophrenia. An important part of recovery is seeking help early. Many people are scared to tell others about their experiences because they worry about what others will think or do. However, early treatment can help you recovery faster and more completely. As schizophrenia usually starts when you’re a teen or young adult, it can interfere in your development and interrupt your goals in school or work. Early treatment can help you get back on track with fewer delays. Of course, it’s also never too late to seek help. There are many different things you can try—talk with your doctor to see what might be right for you.
- Medication: Most people with schizophrenia can be treated with medications called antipsychotics. New types of antipsychotics (also called atypical antipsychotics) may have fewer side effects than older types, but the important part is finding a strategy that works best for you. It may take time to find the right medication and the right dose, so it’s important to be patient during this process. Whenever you start a new medication, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor about what to expect and what you can do to reduce side effects.
- Counselling: Counselling is a very important part of treatment for schizophrenia. A counsellor can help you learn new skills, cope with challenges you experience, and support you on your own path to recovery. Extra supports around job skills, financial management and social skills may also be helpful. You often find these supports in local mental health teams. A type of talk therapy called cognitive-behavioural therapy can help with symptoms like confused thinking, and a type called metacognitive training (MCT) teaches you about thought patterns involved in psychosis.
Counselling is also important for families and loved ones because it can help them learn more about schizophrenia, what to expect, navigating the system, and supporting someone. They can learn what they can do to help their loved one, especially during relapses or crisis.
- Hospitalization and follow-up: If you become extremely ill with schizophrenia, you may need to go the hospital. Once you are out of the hospital, regular check-ups with your doctor and/or community mental health team are a good idea.
- Support groups: You are not alone. Support groups, for both people with the illness and loved ones, are a great way to share your experiences and learn from the experiences of others.
- Self-help: During and after treatment, there are some things you can do on your own to help keep you feeling better. Regular exercise, eating well, managing stress, spending time with friends and family, keeping in touch with your spirituality, and minimizing the use of alcohol and other drugs can help keep your symptoms from getting worse or coming back. Talking to your doctor, asking questions, and feeling in charge of your own health are also very important. Always talk to your doctor about what you’re doing on your own.